|Senator Elizabeth Warren is surging in this race.|
I think of that scene when contemplating the ongoing race for the next Democratic presidential candidate. Like most progressive political junkies, I've been sifting through the various scenarios presented by the now 23 candidates on the crowded stage for the right choice to take on and defeat the grotesque Donald Trump in 2020.
I do believe that the chances are much better than 14,000,000 to 1. But I worry, like most, that settling on one safe candidate or relying too heavily on 2016 assumptions repeating themselves, could end up being a gigantic mistake. The horrific thought of picturing Trump being re-elected in 2020 sends chills down my spine, as I'm sure it does all good people. That sleazy, lying criminal must be removed from the White House next year (if not sooner.) The key is figuring out which Democratic candidate is the one to do it.
Here are some factors that I believe to be true which underpin my current thinking:
- Trump won in 2016 on a populist message that won over working class voters in rust belt states typically won by Democrats by campaigning to be on their side. He was seen as an outsider and a change candidate who would shake things up in Washington.
- 2016 was not some aberration. 2016 was a repudiation of the politics as usual in Washington, ie. the Washington establishment represented by the Clintons, the Bushes, even Barack Obama, and in many ways, Joe Biden.
- The fact that Trump emerged victorious, despite his woeful inadequacies for the office well-known even by his supporters at the time, is proof of a much larger problem: Americans are tired of the status quo. Ignoring this is foolhardy.
- Yes, Trump has let down many voters who supported him who now realize he was lying when he promised to bring back manufacturing jobs, or to protect Medicare. Instead, he's cut taxes for the top 1% while they continue to struggle. This makes him vulnerable.
- But Trump now has the power of incumbency when the economy is doing very well, which makes defeating him quite difficult.
- Trump's pathetic antics and major personality flaws have galvanized his opponents against him. Despite this, Trump's approval ratings remain around 40%, thus he's been able to mostly maintain his base, but has alienated the other 60% including Independents. While his base is motivated to support him again, the Democratic base is equally determined to turn out and stop him in 2020.
In the Democratic field, I have been hoping that some awesome change candidate would emerge. At first, it seemed that all of them, while possessing great strengths, also were dangerously flawed (dangerous only in that I could see those flaws one day undermining their campaigns and helping to re-elect the man-child.)
Below is a list that details how my mind has evolved on this since last fall:
- I first looked at Beto O'Rourke last fall as a dream candidate. His Senate run against Ted Cruz was inspiring. Yet, Beto's incoherent messaging since launching his presidential run has left me confused. By losing the Senate race and no longer holding an elected office, Beto only has the power of his personality to sell in this race. While charming, it's not good enough. His tendency to provide long-winded answers to simple questions isn't helping. Beto's going nowhere in this race.
- Kamala Harris impressed me back in December when it first became clear she has "the goods" when it comes to the gravitas needed for this race. But since then, we've been reminded of some of her less than progressive accomplishments in her previous role as Attorney-General of California. Plus, she hasn't really provided a compelling narrative surrounding her current candidacy and her policies are unsurprising, uninspiring and all over the map. She's stuck in single digits in the polls.
- I've always loved Elizabeth Warren. Her long-established reputation as a fighter for ordinary people against the excesses of Wall Street preceded her current run. She was already well-defined before this race. Yet, I worried about sexism in America. Was now the time to have another female candidate when the last one had such a difficult time and eventually lost to Donald Trump? That, plus Warren's handling of her DNA Indigenous heritage test made it seem her political smarts weren't quite as refined as needed. Last December, I wrote Warren off. But now I've changed my mind about her (more about that below.)
- Pete Buttigieg's surge earlier this year was fascinating to watch. No doubt, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana and combat veteran has made quite the splash among the mainstream media and white, urban Democrats. His speaking skills are amazing, of course. But to date, he too suffers from a lack of a clear galvanizing message. His open homosexuality would make his presidency historic. I'd like to think that the right gay candidate could win the White House in 2020 as the right black candidate did in 2008. But so far, I just can't really see it happening. His vagueness on most policy issues is now working against him. It's clear, in such a crowded field, he's not doing quite enough to go much higher than where he is now (between 5 and 10% in the polls.)
- Tulsi Gabbard's message is awesome but I just can't see her pulling up enough in this race to compete effectively.
- Montana Governor Steve Bullock also has excellent experience and positions on issues, but he started this race too late and is now even shut out of the first debates happening later this month.
- The other candidates in the race are mostly non-starters for me: Cory Booker is too tied to Wall Street and is pretty uninspiring. Kirsten Gillibrand was centrist until she pivoted left just in time for this race; she too is not inspiring. Amy Klobuchar is boring and wants the Democrats to remain much like Biden: centrist and milquetoast. The rest just aren't in the game.
I had hoped that Joe Biden wouldn't run due to his milquetoast approach to everything, not to mention his major mistakes in the past. The list is too long: the 1994 Crime bill, voting for the Iraq war, voting against ordinary people in favour of the big banks on bankruptcy law, demeaning questioning of Anita Hill in the early 1990s and only apologizing for it in 2019, etc. etc.
Joe Biden is yesterday's man. It's true that Washington Democratic insiders who just want to go back to the eras of Clinton and Obama are excited about him, but I'm not sure anyone else truly is. Were Biden to become the candidate, it would deflate and discourage huge portions of the Democratic electorate, particularly the progressive side looking for major change in Washington. Biden could overcome some of that lack of excitement by nominating a progressive Vice-Presidential candidate to run alongside him. But Biden leading a clunky, uninspiring ticket against Donald Trump in 2020 fills me with fear that election day will produce a re-elected and truly dangerous Donald Trump for another four years.
For me, Biden represents nothing that America truly needs right now besides not being Trump. As with Clinton in 2016, that simply won't be enough to stop Trump.
So back in February, I deduced that perhaps the best candidate for the job would be Bernie Sanders. He had made such a strong impression in 2016 and inspired so many devoted progressives. His message taking on the 1%, promoting Medicare for All, taking money out of politics, free tuition for public universities, all spoke to me. His ability, as a white man, to connect with white working class audiences, such as in the rust belt states that Clinton lost to Trump, seemed to make him a winner. I thought that now was the time for Sanders to emerge as the Democratic presidential candidate. So I let that be known on some private social media accounts.
The torrent of resistance and hatred against Sanders I received back was overwhelming. It was clear Sanders remains as divisive as perhaps Trump is on the other side.
Thus, I've been questioning that support for Sanders big time. Sanders' messaging this time isn't really all that much different than in 2016. He remains pretty much exactly the same as he was then, except now he's pushing 80. He does talk rather superficially a bit more about his personal family history. But overall, the focus has been a constant repetition of working class outrage, heavy on grievance, not so detailed on the solutions. Sanders' support doesn't seem to be growing either.
Sanders would also struggle against a full-on attack from not just Donald Trump but also the top 1% establishment spending everything they could to undermine Sanders' campaign. His self-described "socialism" would be a target on the back of his head. I haven't heard anything close to enough from Sanders to counter the tsunami of hate, confusion and misinformation that's coming his way. His communication skills are simply not strong enough.
I have huge fears now that Sanders wouldn't be able to unite the Democratic Party around him. Sanders might even inspire some centrist independent to run to try to stop him. Whereas Biden might deflate progressive voters, Sanders might deflate centrists who will be less inclined to mark an 'X' next to Sanders' name in November 2020. If it's between a tax-and-spend socialist named Sanders versus the status quo under Trump, I can see Trump actually pulling it off.
Ugh. So they all have their flaws.
Yet the last few weeks have proven crucial to Elizabeth Warren:
- Her steady release of detailed policies has given her candidacy additional gravitas and credibility.
- Her amazing retail skills are already reaching new heights. Her town hall events have shown an ability to connect, particularly with suburban women that is so refreshing and undeniably impressive.
- Unlike Sanders who inspires few outside of far left audiences with his dour stories of economic injustice, Warren's stories about struggling to achieve her dream of becoming a teacher, or how she was lucky to have an Aunt Bee to help her with child care, are emotional and inspiring
- She's feisty.
- She's energetic.
- She's very likeable.
- She's principled.
- She is emerging in this race as the best candidate, possessing both the retail smarts to connect with ordinary people who want a champion to fight for them, as well as the policy credibility to appeal to voters who want real change. She might even be the person of the moment, in 2019 and in 2020.
But what about Pocahontas? With some great messaging, Warren can leave that minor controversy behind in the eyes of all reasonable people. If Trump keeps calling her that long after the American people have accepted Warren's apology for it, it'll just make him seem even more immature and trite. Of course, by comparison, Trump too has his major mistakes and flaws to contend with. I'd much rather worry about Warren's handling of this one issue than worry about Joe Biden's various mistakes in his past including plagiarism.
But Warren's a woman in a sexist country? True. Let's not forget that Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote in that "sexist" country in 2016 by almost 3,000,000 votes. It was a unique failure in three key states that undermined her. Clinton was also hopelessly flawed and uninspiring with so much baggage. Yet despite that, she won the most votes.
It's easy to see Elizabeth Warren inspiring and galvanizing turnout in places where Clinton failed. Certainly, in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and perhaps many more places. Warren is also 100% more likeable than Hillary Clinton could ever be.
Warren's words also inspire: "What I've learned is that real change is very, very hard. But I've also learned that change is possible - if you fight for it."
When I've over-thought issues like this, suppressing my own instincts and instead tried to appease other people, I've fallen flat on my face.
I've learned the hard way that the best way forward is to fight for what you want. Don't compromise and capitulate. Stick to your own instincts and vote with your principles. You're never going to get what you want if you don't vote for it.
Supporting Biden because he's safe and currently considered the best bet for beating Trump reminds me of John Kerry in 2004 against George Bush Jr. It would be the worst kind of capitulation. Biden is not what America needs right now.
While his policies are great, Sanders personally isn't the answer, it seems, anymore. I just can't see that happening.
No, the answer to Donald Trump is Elizabeth Warren, a powerful, progressive woman who's got well-thought out plans for what ails that country and a new, vibrant ability to connect with ordinary people.
I can't think of a better way for Trump's presidency to end than with Elizabeth Warren taking office after him in 2021.
She's got the progressive credentials to inspire the left. She's still reasonable on many issues that she won't scare off too many if any centrists, or even establishment types who can't stand Trump.
She's on her way up in this race. I predict she'll soon overtake Bernie Sanders as the best bet to not only stop Biden, but also Trump in 2020.
Think of it: President Elizabeth Warren. Now that's something to get truly inspired about.